A new UK start-up is working to secure the necessary funding to launch operations between the UK and India, the first stage of a business model based around the VFR (visiting friends and relatives) market and meeting demand for diaspora travel. flyPOP aims to launch operations initially between London Stansted and the Indian cities of Amritsar (Punjab) and Ahmedabad (Gujarat), but plans growth into other South Asian markets such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and then into North America, the Caribbean and Africa in future phases of development.
The start-up plans to utlise a 378-seat, all-economy, Airbus A330-300 aircraft and offer three flights per week on each of the routes into India to test the market before eventually growing to daily services. The company has already identified aircraft which will initially be flown on an ACMI arrangement with a third party provider.
flyPOP’s business proposition is to create what it describes as an ‘Enhanced-Value’ airline to provide non-stop flights between the UK and the second cities in the nations of the developing world to meet the demand of the growing ‘visiting friends and relatives’ (VFR) market as well as expanding tourist and business sectors. These are markets that are not currently served directly from the UK and require at least one flight change to reach.
It will start with India and the likes of Kolkata, Lucknow, Panaji/Mangalore (Goa), Surat/Pune and Bhubaneswar (Odisha) could be future markets of interest, but Bangladesh and other developing nations could quickly follow once it validates the effectiveness of its model.
The original name flyPOP comes from ‘People over Profits’, the airline’s business mantra that will deliver socially responsible travel. “It’s people first,” explains CEO, Navdip Singh Judge, “where people are our passengers and employees.” Its concept of ‘Enhanced-Value’ combines a number of factors: highly competitive fares, self-selected on-board and ground services, and convenient, non-stop flights. The latter will be family and business-convenient schedules, thus reversing the trend of middle-of-the-night international movements into and out of India.
“Traditional LCCs have always plumped for process over people in the never-ending drive for efficiency – the lowest common denominator is cheap fares. However, cheap need not mean nasty. After all, a smile costs nothing,” explains Richard Bate, chief marketing officer, flyPOP. “That is why the new breed of carriers are developing a level of service which, to the consumer, is highest common factor versus lowest common denominator.”
The current Air Services Agreement (ASA) between the UK and India permits seven scheduled services per week on any route between the UK and India, other than Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad. No UK airlines are currently operating non-stop services to Amritsar and Ahmedabad, although Air India does now offer a non-stop link between Amritsar and Birmingham.
CHART – Despite strong and growing passenger flows, the number of non-stop seats between India and the UK has remained static, mainly due to increasing one-stop options offering alternative routingsSource: The Blue Swan Daily and OAG
Today, around 500,000 seats a month, directly or indirectly, link India and the UK in all directions, and analyses demonstrate that the market continues to grow rapidly in all sectors, driven by India’s increasing prosperity, rapid urbanisation and industrial development, and not least by the growing aspirations of its population.
The ‘leading-edge’ states of Punjab and Gujarat and their respective cities of Amritsar and Ahmedabad, particularly in terms of their growth and ambition, symbolise the new India that is expected to be home to the largest internet-savvy working population in the world 15 years from now.
The Blue Swan Daily caught up with the driving force behind the project, Navdip (Nino) Singh Judge, at the recent AIRLINE Total Networking, air service development forum in London, UK to learn more about the airline’s strategy and operational plans. With a long career in the finance and motor sport industries, including an instrumental role in bringing the famous Lotus brand back to Formula 1 as Lotus Racing and later Team Lotus and Caterham, Judge knows how the small guy can effectively compete against bigger, established rivals.